Category: Meeting Summary

May 22, 2019 – Anuj Gupta, director, Reading Terminal Market

Anuj Gupta, Director, Reading Terminal Market

 

The Reading Terminal Market has been in existence for 126 years, but about 30 years ago it had fallen on hard times. However, there were still some strengths, including loyal vendors, loyal customers, and support of the Philadelphia Inquirer for a place like this in our city. The city of Philadelphia created a nonprofit entity to take over the market, and it has experienced a true renaissance.

 

There are currently 80 family-owned businesses in the market; no chains are allowed. Anuj Gupta outlined the steps that he has taken as general manager since 2015: improved security, improved maintenance, improved cleanliness, maintenance as a functioning market and not a simple food court, culinary innovation, diversity in offerings (e.g., first Latino vendors), accessibility, opportunities for first-time entrepreneurs, partnerships with some schools. Most recent project is the redoing of Filbert Street to allow outdoor and indoor celebrations.

May 15, 2019 – ShelterBox

ShelterBox is an independent charitable organization with close affiliations to Rotary International. The organization responds to disasters by supplying whole family kits or by supplying specific items needed for rebuilding after catastrophe, such as earthquakes, typhoons, and civil wars.

 

Club member Tom Lloyd acts as a volunteer spokesman for ShelterBox, which our club has supported for the past 10 years. He pointed out that the organization has helped very large numbers of families, such as 11,000 families in West Africa, 35,000 families in East Africa, and over 50,000 in disaster areas in such countries as Syria, Iraq, and Indonesia.

 

From 2011 to 2018, there were 158 deployments in over 100 countries.

 

Tom noted that volunteers for ShelterBox field response teams undergo intensive training in order to prepare them to distribute supplies on the ground and not to use possibly corrupt local political organizations.

 

The organization is establishing a new category of ShelterBox hero, meaning groups that pledge to support ShelterBox at a meaningful level for at least three years. There is no question that our club would qualify, given its activity in the past, and we have every intention of continuing.

May 1, 2019 – Rotaplast

Carol Lerner, Rotary District 7450 volunteer coordinator for Rotaplast, discussed the 2019 district mission to Monrovia, Liberia.

Rotaplast is a separate organization, a spinoff of activity of Rotary members, but one that is actively supported by Rotary clubs. Missions take place only to areas where local Rotary clubs can provide support.

A team of 21 people in this mission consisted of nine Rotarians and 12 health professionals (doctors and nurses). The official task is to provide surgery for cleft palate and cleft lip, conditions that  are routinely corrected in the United States but that can be physically and socially crippling in other countries. Ordinarily about 100 surgeries are performed in a 10 day mission, but because of logistical and financial reasons affecting the local population, only about 60 such surgeries were performed in this mission. The surgeons were able to expand their reach to include a number of surgeries for keloid scars.

Keloids are common among certain African populations. If untreated, these scars can become raised and become so large as to be disfiguring.

Each of the accompanying Rotarians was assigned a support job on this mission, such as being in charge of sterile materials, preoperational contact with the children, transportation within the hospital, and other assorted tasks. Carol spoke of the tremendous esprit de corps that developed among all the members of the mission as they were engaged in a significant humanitarian activity.

Missions are generally planned 6 to 8 months in advance. The mission for 2020 sponsored by our Rotary district has not yet been scheduled.

April 17, 2019 – Prevention Point

Clayton Ruley of Prevention Point explained the organization’s approach to dealing with the problems of drug abuse. Harm Reduction is a set of public health strategies designed to reduce the negative consequences of drug use and to promote healthy individuals and communities without necessarily reducing drug use.

 

The strategy of this program is improved health through access to sterile syringes, safer injection supplies, medical supports, legal supports, and social service supports. The idea is to use a non-judgmental approach in working with drug addicts and sex workers. There are currently 11 weekly exchanges and access sites, both site-based and mobile. Services are not “forced” onto clients. The cost of supplying the supplies is infinitely less than the cost of treating HIV-positive individuals and those with hepatitis C.

 

Statistics indicate a significant decrease in cases of HIV among drug users in Philadelphia, suggesting positive results for the program.

April 10, 2019 – Aging in Ghana

Cati Coe, an anthropologist based at Rutgers University, discussed the problem of aging in Ghana, a situation probably typical of African countries.

 

As elsewhere, people are living longer due to reductions in infant mortality. Even with a decline in the birth rate, 50% of the Ghanaian population is under age 30; 5%, over age 65.

 

The traditional way of caring for the elderly has been to keep the people in the family. Ghanaians still respond that in the West, particularly in America, families do not play the same role; public opinion suggests that the local society is superior to the West in this regard. However, with large-scale emigration from rural areas to the cities, and paradoxically with the growth of a middle-class, families are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain the elderly only with relatives. Most commonly, women from the outside are hired to help in homes.

 

Dr. Coe has done most of her research in southeast Ghana, which is a rural area with a preponderance of elderly families because younger persons have emigrated. What care that is provided by the community is usually church centered, often in fellowship groups, but care in the home  or in group living is rare.

 

Dr. Coe also explored some sporadic attempts to set up what we in the West call continuing care homes, but there are very few people in such homes.

March 27, 2019 – Emlen School

Meredith Sutzer, school counselor, and Tina Fields,  community partnership coordinator, Emlen Elementary school (K-5), discussed the school. The school currently has 375 children, two classes per grade. The school enrollment consists of 100% free and reduced lunch children (low income).

 

The school has a number of partnerships with community associations to provide services for the students – e.g., the Germantown soccer club, a hockey group, a community garden, computers on loan, girls on the run program (for building self-confidence). Students from Germantown Friends school have assembled a large number of books and arranged them into a library for use by all the schoolchildren. The school system currently supplies programs for gym, art, and computers; there is no music program and no formal health education program.

 

In the past our club has distributed dictionaries all third-graders in this school.

 

The school experiences a severe problem of truancy (defined as six unexcused absences). Since these are such young children, it is assumed that these absences are a function of lack of parental support for school attendance.

March 13, 2019 – Clean Water in Philadelphia

Dottie Baumgartner explained stormwater management in Philadelphia in some detail. It is important to manage the rain as it comes off of one’s property, since in this neighborhood all water flows down to the Wissahickon Creek. This is our neighborhood drinking water! The intake is in the Queen Lane treatment center, where the water is prepared for drinking.

 

The Wissahickon watershed area consists of those areas, stretching from Montgomery County through Philadelphia, where rainwater runs into the creek. This watershed is part of a larger Schuylkill River watershed area.

 

In Philadelphia, some 40% of residences split rainwater runoff from sewage; 60% have combined sewers. It is therefore important that rainwater run onto the land and not directly into the sewers. In periods of heavy rainfall, the sewer lines become full and the combined rainwater-sewage runs directly into the creek or into the Schuylkill River.

 

The cycle of treatment is as follows: runoff into the river  à treatment plant à homes à wastewater treatment à river.

 

Dottie Baumgartner was formally a science teacher. She took business courses at the Business Center (run by our own Pam Rich-Wheeler) to help her prepare for a transition to independent consultant and educator. She now works primarily for the Philadelphia Water Department and several schools.)

March 6, 2019 – W. Phila. Alliance for Children

Anisha Sinha, Executive Director, West Philadelphia Alliance for Children (WEPAC)

 

WEPAC is an organization devoted to promoting reading among elementary school children. Of the 237 public schools in Philadelphia, only seven have full-time librarians. A few schools have libraries and librarians supported by neighborhood organization.

 

WEPAC works with principals and teachers in specific schools to develop libraries. Currently 14 schools are being served, with the hope of serving 20 by the end of the next school year. The organization delivers books and coordinates volunteers to help in these individual schools. It requires $25,000 to open the library, though maintenance costs afterwards are much less.

 

WEPAC works with existing organizations, such as Team First Book Philadelphia, as well as with the Philadelphia school district itself.in order to reach its goals for the next two years, the organization must raise $200,000.

 

The organization may be supported by donations of supplies and books, by volunteer time, and by contributing the funding.

 

The current emphasis is on grades K-4.

 

It is difficult to evaluate the program, but surveys of teachers indicate that 70% of the teachers involved in the program see a positive impact on the children.

 

 

 

February 27, 2019 – Councilwoman Cindy Bass

Councilwoman Cindy Bass discussed her proposal to eliminate the 10 year tax abatement in Philadelphia. The tax abatement program in the city goes back to the 1990s, and it was successful in supporting development in Center City.

 

Councilwoman Bass feels that the program was successful in the past, but it helped only in certain neighborhoods. Now is the time to end this abatement so that funds can be raised to support the Philadelphia school system and to combat poverty in the city. She estimates that cancellation of the abatement will recover $500-$700 million over five years.

 

Other bills have been introduced that would restrict the abatement in various ways. No hearings have been scheduled on these bills in city Council, and Councilwoman Bass has taken on the task of persuading the Council to hold hearings on her proposal.

February 27, 2019 – Councilwoman Cindy Bass

Councilwoman Cindy Bass discussed her proposal to eliminate the 10 year tax abatement in Philadelphia. The tax abatement program in the city goes back to the 1990s, and it was successful in supporting development in Center City.

 

Councilwoman Bass feels that the program was successful in the past, but it helped only in certain neighborhoods. Now is the time to end this abatement so that funds can be raised to support the Philadelphia school system and to combat poverty in the city. She estimates that cancellation of the abatement will recover $500-$700 million over five years.

 

Other bills have been introduced that would restrict the abatement in various ways. No hearings have been scheduled on these bills in city Council, and Councilwoman Bass has taken on the task of persuading the Council to hold hearings on her proposal.